Let’s Dance: Popular Dance Styles for Seniors
Ready to feel better, enjoy time with friends, and boost your health? Put on your dancing shoes. Dance offers many health benefits, including better balance and coordination and a potential delay of dementia onset. Among the popular styles of dance for seniors are line dancing, ballroom, tap, and even belly dance. Here are some tips for finding a class, learning a new type of dance, and getting started—even if you have mobility issues or have never danced before.
First, the science behind how dance helps you feel better. A 21-year long study of seniors run by New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that among the activities studied – including walking, biking, swimming, golfing, and frequent social dancing–only dancing offered any protection against dementia. What’s more, dancing reduced the dementia risk of the seniors in the study by 76%. Reading cut their risk by 35%, and frequent crossword puzzles reduced it by 47%.
According to an article shared by Stanford Unviersity’s dance division, dance may protect the mind by helping it stay alert to new possibilities that require frequent, quick decision-making, such as when you’re following a partner’s lead during a foxtrot.
That dementia study is especially good news for adults who came of age when social partner dancing had a more structure than the club and rave dancing that’s popular today. Whether you’re more into the twist, the hustle, or waltzes and salsa dance, social ballroom dance is a great option for seniors. Ballroom dance is also great for preventing falls, according to a study from Brazil.
You don’t need to have a partner, either, although it’s fun to go to class with someone you know. Most instructors will pair up students once class begins. Yes, You Can Dance in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, tailors ballroom dance classes to adults age 60 and up, including students who use walkers and wheelchairs.
Line dancing offers the social aspects of group dance without the challenge of leading or following a partner. Line dancing is also a great skill to have when you’re at a country and western club, a wedding reception, or another big social gathering, because it’s easy for everyone to join in. Youthful Hearts in Marin County, California offers line dance classes just for students over 50.
Fans of classic movie and Broadway musicals may really get into tap dancing. It’s not usually a partner dance, but for building leg strength, balance, and quickness of movement, it’s hard to beat. Look for an adult beginner class and invest in a good fitting, sturdy pair of tap shoes. Some teachers, like Sarah Draper of Houston, offer seniors-only beginner and intermediate classes and even performing groups.
This folkdance and film-inspired form of Middle Eastern movement is surprisingly popular among older women (and some men), thanks to its ability to create stronger core muscles without putting undue strain on hips and knees. There are belly dance instructors in just about every city in America. Some, like the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, offer classes that blend fitness principles with Egyptian-style dance moves.
What to look for in a senior dance class
If you can, talk to the instructor before your first class to find out if he or she has experience teaching older adults. You should also ask if the teacher or staff has first aid and CPR training. Find out what you should wear and bring to class, and whether it’s OK to arrive a few minutes early to settle in. Then show up, have fun, and enjoy your new moves.